The Time Machine (1978 film)

The Time Machine is a 1978 American made-for-television science fiction-adventure film produced by Sunn Classic Pictures as a part of their Classics Illustrated series. Despite updating the plot to take place in the late 1970s, the film, which stars John Beck and Priscilla Barnes, was intended to be a more faithful plot recreation of the original 1895 novella by H.G. Wells—as opposed to the 1960 film adaptation, which took several liberties. The film was broadcast November 5, 1978 during the November Sweeps on NBC.

The Time Machine
John Beck Priscilla Barnes 1978 Time Machine.jpeg
John Beck as Dr. Neil Perry and Priscilla Barnes as Weena
Based onThe Time Machine novel by H.G. Wells
Written byWallace Bennett
Directed byHenning Schellerup
StarringJohn Beck
Priscilla Barnes
Whit Bissell
Rosemary DeCamp
Music byJohn Cacavas
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Executive producerCharles E. Sellier Jr.
ProducerJames Simmons
CinematographyStephen W. Gray
EditorTrevor Jolly
Running time95 minutes
Production companySunn Classic Pictures
Original networkNBC
Picture formatColor
Audio formatMono
Original releaseNovember 5, 1978 (1978-11-05)


The film is a modernization of the Wells' story, making the Time Traveller a 1970s scientist working for a fictional US defense contractor, "the Mega Corporation". Dr. Neil Perry (John Beck), the Time Traveller, is described as one of Mega's most reliable contributors by his senior co-worker Branly (Whit Bissell, an alumnus of the 1960 adaptation). Perry's skill is demonstrated by his rapid reprogramming of an off-course satellite, averting a disaster that could have destroyed Los Angeles. His reputation had secured a grant of $20 million for his time machine project. A month from completion, the corporation wants Perry to put his project on hold so that he can begin work on a new weapons project, the "anti-matter bomb." The unexpectedly early completion of the power module that Perry needed to complete the time machine permits him to test his creation the weekend before he is set to begin work on the anti-matter bomb.

Perry time travels twice over the course of the weekend, and reports to Haverson (an analog to the novel's Hillyer), Branley, and J.R. Worthington (Andrew Duggan), chairman of the board of Mega Corporation. As Neil tells the story of his travels, reversed time-lapse images of building construction demonstrate Neil's passage backwards in time. Unlike the novel, the time machine and its rider do not stay in the same place as they travel through time, and the machine can travel to different locations. Perry first goes to 1692 Salem, Massachusetts where he is caught up in the Salem witch trials and found guilty of witchcraft. He is sentenced to be burned at the stake with his time machine. Tied up in the seat of his machine, he is able to free himself in order to escape. He detours into 1871 to avoid a time warp and arrives in the midst of the California Gold Rush, where he is shot at by miners who thinks that he is trying to steal their gold shipment and is arrested. Perry's ingenuity and the distraction of a bank robbery allow him to escape.

When Perry returns to his lab in the present, he receives a chilling report of the environmental impact of Mega Corporation's latest weapons. Perry then travels into the future to supply proof for the report's projections and convince Haverson that Mega's current agenda will lead to global devastation. Neil witnesses the fiery destruction of civilization, but also the re-emergence of nature from the wasteland. During the devastation humanity retreated underground. Eventually some decided to return to the surface. Those who did so became the Eloi. Those who remained underground became the Morlocks. The Morlocks have just begun to "harvest" the Eloi for food when Perry arrives on the scene (the year is not made specific). He is befriended by Weena (Priscilla Barnes), who explains how the Eloi-Morlock world came to be. A special museum of technology, showcasing weapons from Perry's era, includes Perry's name on a card identifying a weapon he designed. A video and audio presentation in the museum reveals that Perry's new assignment at Mega Corporation will be directly responsible for the world's destruction. Before he returns to his own time, Perry and Ariel, the male Eloi, use plastic explosives found in the museum to seal off the Morlocks' three entrances to the Eloi habitat.

Perry gives his report to Haverson and Washington, and discovers they are uninterested in saving the world from destruction. Instead, they are interested in using the time machine to gain a military advantage over other world powers. Perry leaves them and returns to Weena and the Eloi, who are now free of the Morlocks.


Director: Henning Schellerup, Screenplay by Wallace C. Bennett, Release Date: November 5, 1978 (USA)[1][2]

Critical responseEdit

Film critic David Sindelar defends the film against the accusation that it departs entirely from the novel. He states that the film's anti-war message was done better and more subtly by the George Pal film. Sindelar pokes fun at Perry's adventures in colonial America and the California Gold Rush and feels the Eloi appear and act too much like contemporary American young people.[3]

Shooting locationsEdit

The Collier & Heins Financial Consultants building complex in Salt Lake City, Utah was used for some of the modern era scenes. James Collier was president of the company in the late 1970s, and his office was used as Haverson's office. The Morlock scenes were shot in Park City, Utah, in and around one of the mines.[4] Parts of the film were also shot in Kamas, Utah.[5]


  1. ^ "The Time Machine (1978)". IMDb. Retrieved August 12, 2017.
  2. ^ Coleman, Don. "The Time Machine Project". Retrieved August 12, 2017.
  3. ^ The Time Machine (1978)
  4. ^ "Time machine TV movie from 70's - Time Machine, The (1960, 1978, 2002) [original and re-adaptations] Forums". Retrieved 2011-01-01.
  5. ^ D'Arc, James V. (2010). When Hollywood came to town: a history of moviemaking in Utah (1st ed.). Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 9781423605874.

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